Darden to Reduce Food Waste in new Food Assist Partnership
By Erica Szymanski
Beginning on the first operating day of January 2024, FLIK Hospitality Group at Darden will begin donating excess food to community members in need through a Food Assist partnership.
Food Assist is a volunteer group of students at the University of Virginia that transports food that would otherwise go to waste to local shelters and food pantries. This past fall semester alone, Food Assist student volunteers have driven over 6,000 pounds of donations to organizations such as The Salvation Army. Food Assist also supports the UVA Community Food Pantry, which serves University students and staff.
The Darden side of the partnership will be led by Executive Sous Chef Scott Prol, with support from Food and Beverage Director Carl Lasey and General Manager of Hospitality Alex Lungi.
“To kickstart, we’ll be coordinating regular pickups from Food Assist, which will include any prepared foods from overproduction from catering orders or meal plan offerings,” Lungi said. “In addition, we hope to contact Food Assist during peak catering season, should there be any overproduction that can benefit the community program.”
FLIK Hospitality Group is committed to reducing food waste and supporting community food rescue as a corporate philosophy, with initiatives spearheaded by each of the company’s local teams. Lungi noted that FLIK’s great service isn’t limited to the walls of the cafes and properties that it manages, but it also reaches back into the communities that they serve – and live in.
“FLIK’s food philosophy is rooted in a from-scratch approach, celebrating seasonality, and focusing on wellness at center stage,” Lungi said. “Members of the community who benefit from FLIK and Food Assist can expect nutritious, seasonally inspired food, made with quality ingredients.”
Garreth Bartholomew, president of Food Assist, and Emily Carder, volunteer coordinator, are pioneering the student side of the partnership. Bartholomew is currently pursuing a Master of Public Policy at the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy and has been heavily involved with hunger-fighting organizations since high school.
Bartholomew explained that food recovery is a “win-win-win” scenario – preventing the overproduction of food by consuming food that has already been produced, diverting food waste away from landfills and fighting food insecurity.
“I think it’s great to be able to expand our connection to North Grounds,” Bartholomew said. “Food Assist has traditionally been an organization that specializes on main Grounds. We were trying to work on connecting with all the amazing work that Darden is doing to ensure sustainability in its food systems.”
Combating food waste by donating will work together with Darden’s composting efforts to make progress towards Darden’s 2030 sustainability goals, which include reducing waste sent to landfills to 30% of the 2010 baseline. According to the Wasted Food Scale developed by the EPA, composting is preferred over sending food to the landfill, and donating food to those in need is even more preferred.
“The stark reality is that food insecurity often disproportionately affects marginalized and disadvantaged populations, further widening social inequalities,” Lungi said. “By partnering with UVA Food Assist, we are taking a stand to combat these disparities while simultaneously nourishing our local community and reducing food waste.”
The University of Virginia Darden School of Business prepares responsible global leaders through unparalleled transformational learning experiences. Darden’s graduate degree programs (MBA, MSBA and Ph.D.) and Executive Education & Lifelong Learning programs offered by the Darden School Foundation set the stage for a lifetime of career advancement and impact. Darden’s top-ranked faculty, renowned for teaching excellence, inspires and shapes modern business leadership worldwide through research, thought leadership and business publishing. Darden has Grounds in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the Washington, D.C., area and a global community that includes 18,000 alumni in 90 countries. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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